Please Let This Historical Murder Really Have Happened

Illustration for article titled Please Let This Historical Murder Really Have Happened

I know it’s wrong to want someone to have been murdered—especially if that someone is a bishop—but hear me out. This is the best murder story that ever happened. Or, it would be, if it really happened.


We know that Thomas Gage existed. He was born into an English Catholic family in the late 1500s, became a Dominican friar, and eventually went to the Americas. He’s remembered because he kept a record of his life, including his travels in the Caribbean and Central America. He was not discreet, and so he wrote about the scandals he encountered, both in and out of the church. It’s possible that he exaggerated, or that he took at face value rumors that weren’t true.

One such rumor came from Chiapas, Mexico. Gage was in the New World, as they said in the 1630s, and chocolate was coming into fashion in a big way. Most of the time people drank it as a beverage. Chocolaterias ground up the beans and sweetened the entire thing with sugar. It was expensive, but those who could afford it never stopped drinking it. (Gage had quite a habit and grabbed as many cocoa nibs as he could when he had to leave Guatemala.) It was considered not just tasty, but healthy. Gage wrote that he himself drank two or three cups a day for twelve years and was never sick during the time—although he did gain weight.

So people were sucking down the chocolate, and one bishop in Chiapas thought they were overdoing it. He demanded that the women in his town stop drinking chocolate during church services. Then he got sick. His doctors came by and concluded that there was nothing they could do for him. He’d been poisoned. The women in the town did not seem overly concerned with his health. One woman even said that they shouldn’t mourn for him. He probably, she said, got sick from drinking chocolate specifically because he’d railed against it so much. Gage, and many other prelates, believed that this woman was the head of a chocolate-poisoning ring which had organized a secret way to poison the bishop. Gage concluded, “Beware the chocolatte of Chiapas!”

I’ve come across this story, in one form or another, several times. What gets to me is, the bishop didn’t demand the women stop eating chocolate. He just asked them not to do it while they were physically in church. So forget the chocolate of Chiapas. Beware the women of Chiapas. They don’t negotiate.

Top Image: Alpha


Wow, this did not read as the froth on top of hot chocolate for me. I guess I can see the brown flaky bits now, but I kept waiting for the bishop to get baked under the cheese-layer of a French onion soup.